Google Doodles bring the Google logo to life. Users who navigate to Google are often delighted and surprised by the creative ways in which doodles highlight holidays and other important or interesting dates throughout the year. The idea for Doodles came to founders Larry and Sergey in 1998 as they were gearing up to attend the Burning Man festival. This first Doodle was a simple stick figure placed behind the second “O” in the logo. The Doodle was designed to let users know that the founders were out of the office while they attended Burning Man. While it was a simple design, the idea for what would become an integral part of the Google user experience was born.
In 2000, Larry and Sergey tasked Dennis Hwang (an intern at the time and now a webmaster) with creating a Doodle for Bastille Day. Due to its popularity, Hwang was appointed Chief Doodler at Google. In the early days the Doodles mainly highlighted holidays, but now they highlight an eclectic mix of notable dates such as the 226th birthday of John James Audubon and the 30th anniversary of Pac Man.
While some Doodles beautifully adapt static artwork to the Google logo like the 226th Birthday of John James Audubon Doodle, others are rich web applications built using HTML 5 like the 30th Anniversary of PAC-MAN Doodle which allowed users to actually play Pac Man.
According to Marcin Wichary, designer of the PAC-MAN and Stanislaw Lem Doodles, “A thing worth keeping in mind is that Google’s homepage is not a place for tech demos. With our doodles, we want to celebrate specific people and events, and we want to do that using the best art and the best technologies we can summon – but never celebrate technology for technology’s sake.” He continues, “This means carefully looking at whatever part of broadly understood HTML5 is available, and whether it helps us make the doodle better without distracting from it or overshadowing it.”
Wichary’s perspective on Google Doodles is useful for website designers when approaching design elements for their own websites. Achieving the right balance between using cutting edge technology, user friendly design and keeping the focus on the content. Your design elements should never distract from or overshadow your content. Instead, they should enhance it. Google clearly has achieved this balance with their Doodles. They have become so popular that Google has a dedicated team of illustrators and engineers to work on Doodles. While these Doodles represent some of the best examples of how the medium has progressed over time, you can view the collection on Google’s Doodles page.